More than once over the last several years, Kendrick Lamar has crowned himself as the “Greatest Rapper Alive.” While you can argue the validity of that statement all DAMN day, you can’t deny the incredible body of work that he’s put together since first hitting the scene around 2010 with his head-turning mixtape Overly Dedicated. Over the past five years, the man has logged three, stone-cold classics in a row, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, To Pimp A Butterfly and most recently DAMN, placing himself firmly in the pantheon of the greatest musical minds of the 21st century along the way.
Limiting this list to just his 15 greatest songs was an exceedingly tall order. Basically every single track from Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City was in play at one point or another — minus the bonus tracks — most of To Pimp A Butterfly — minus the interludes — and just over half of DAMN. Then you’ve got the loosies, the mixtape cuts; Section .80 has to represent somewhere. After careful consideration and hours — years really — of listening, here are the best tracks from Kendrick Lamar’s career, ranked from merely great to stupendously amazing.
15. “Untitled 07”
We’ll probably never know the true reason why Kendrick decided to drop this batch of previously shelved tracks packaged as Untitled Unmastered in the spring of 2016. Maybe LeBron James had something to do with it? Maybe it was in the cards all along? It doesn’t matter either way. While it’s fair to say Kendrick was wise to leave a lot of these songs off To Pimp A Butterfly, he might have erred by excluding “Untitled 07.” There’s an ominous tone to the music of this song that Kendrick embodies through the verses. He sounds like a tempter, plying the act of enlightenment itself. Achieve it and you’ll “levitate, levitate, levitate, levitate.”